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Pokémon Go settlement would resolve class-action trespassing claims against Niantic

Company agrees to monitor complaints, remove Pokéstops, remind players to be courteous

Man holding phone playing Pokémon Go Niantic/The Pokémon Company
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Pokémon Go creator Niantic reached a settlement with a class action of pissed-off homeowners that, assuming a judge approves, will resolve the trespassing and nuisance lawsuits that sprung up shortly after the game’s white-hot 2016 release.

In the settlement, filed on Thursday and first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Niantic agrees to deliver courtesy reminders to users, through the Pokémon Go app, whenever 10 or more are catching Pokémon in the same location.

Niantic will also work with public parks authorities to remind users of a location’s hours of operation; maintain a database of complaints; make “commercially reasonable efforts” to resolve them within 15 days; and grant Pokéstop or Gym removals to homeowners within 40 meters of their properties.

Niantic was sued in August 2016, barely a month after the game’s launch, by several property owners alleging the game was enticing its users to trespass on private property, and that Niantic was profiting from such behavior. A New Jersey man brought the first claim and sought class action status for anyone in the United States whose property was designated (without approval, of course) as a Pokéstop or a Pokémon Gym.

Shortly after the game’s launch, mainstream news accounts were filled with anecdotes of players wandering onto private property and mistaken for intruders — and worse. Some places became rather unfortunate locations for the augmented-reality game, such as Arlington National Cemetery and the National Holocaust Museum in Washington.

The settlement is filled with anecdotal accounts of plaintiffs being bothered by Pokémon Go players. A private condo complex in Florida said that hundreds of non-residents came to the property during “peak spawning hours” at night, creating a huge disturbance. The game had placed a Pokémon Gym at the end of a New York homeowner’s driveway, where “large groups lingered for weeks and often trespassed and damaged his property.” A California woman said the game had designated her swimming pool as a Pokéstop, bringing players onto her property to damage her lawn and her fence.

Two weeks after the game’s launch, the Pokémon Go website added the means for users to request PokéStops and gyms be created in or removed from certain locations. The proposed settlement enhances the public’s means of making those requests and Niantic’s responsibility to act on them; the company will also hire an independent firm to audit its compliance with the terms over a three-year period.

As for money, the named plaintiffs in the case will receive $1,000 each, while the attorneys are requesting $8 million in fees and $130,000 in expenses.

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